Care home staff and residents to be regularly tested for Covid-19
3 July, 2020
Care home staff and residents in care homes for older people and those with dementia will receive regular Covid-19 tests from next week as part of a new social care testing strategy.
Staff will be tested for Covid-19 weekly, while residents will receive a test every 28 days with the aim of preventing the spread of coronavirus in social care. This is in addition to intensive testing in any care home facing an outbreak, or at increased risk of an outbreak.
The new testing strategy comes following the latest advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and new evidence from the Vivaldi 1 study indicating a higher prevalence in care homes, and therefore a case for frequent testing in care homes and their staff.
The Vivaldi 1 study, which surveyed almost 9,000 care home managers and analysed data from whole care home testing, identified the higher levels of the virus among care staff, particularly among temporary staff who work in multiple care settings. The study suggests that care home staff may be at increased risk of contracting the virus, which they may then pass on to others if they have no symptoms.
In announcing the programme, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said that, over the next four weeks, retesting will have extended to all care homes for older people and those with dementia which had registered to receive retesting. Repeat testing will be extended to include all care homes for working age adults in August.
“Our response to this global pandemic has always been led by the latest scientific advice from world-class experts, and we will now offer repeat testing to staff and residents in care homes, starting with homes for elderly residents before expanding to the entire care home sector,” said Mr Hancock.
“This will not only keep residents and care workers safe, but it will give certainty and peace of mind to the families who may be worried about their loved ones, and give staff the confidence to do what they do best.”
Care minister Helen Whately said the government would work with local directors of public health to deliver an initial round of asymptomatic whole home testing for staff and residents at the extra care housing and supported living settings at most clinical risk.
“The operational details of rolling out this testing to this sector are being worked through and more details will be provided shortly,” said Ms Whatley.
“Social care and its workforce are at the front line of this unprecedented pandemic with many of our care homes looking after those who are most at risk from coronavirus.
“It is our priority to protect care residents and staff and testing is a crucial part of that. That’s why from Monday residents will be offered monthly tests, and staff will be tested every week. This is so important as it means care workers can be sure they are providing the very best care without worrying if they are carrying the virus themselves.”